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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Best Books Overlap

Bulletin Blue Ribbons are up!  Now all six review journals have published their best books lists.  There is not necessarily a strong correlation between starred reviews and best of the year lists and Newbery recognition.  For example, last year: ONE CRAZY SUMMER (4 stars/5 lists), DARK EMPEROR (4 stars/3 lists), HEART OF A SAMURAI (4 stars/3 lists), TURTLE IN PARADISE (3 stars/2 lists), and MOON OVER MANIFEST (3 stars/1 list).  Oftentimes books win with much less fanfare.  For example, during my year we had a pair of honor books with 2 stars/0 lists in WHITTINGTON and PRINCESS ACADEMY.  There have been books in recent memory that earned less, and that is as it should be since the Newbery committee is reading in a different kind of way and with a different kind of purpose than each of the review journals.  Thus, I always use my composite starred/best lists not to judge the value of a book, but rather to prioritize my reading, help me find books I might have overlooked otherwise (I would never have read EMMA DILEMMA or ROOTS AND BLUES, for example), and help me gauge my own response to certain books (What do people see in book A?!?!).

five lists

ANYA’S GHOST by Vera Brosgol

CHIME by Franny Billingsley

HEART AND SOUL by Kadir Nelson

four lists

AROUND THE WORLD by Matt Phelan

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruth Sepetys

BLINK & CAUTION by Tim Wynne-Jones

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE by Laini Taylor

DRAWING FROM MEMORY by Allen Say

INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN by Thanhhai Lai

A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness

MOUSE & LION by Rand Burkert

THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater

WHERE’S WALRUS by Stephen Savage

WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick

three lists

AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming

BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY by Melissa Sweet

BLACKOUT by John Rocco

BOOTLEG by Karen Blumenthal

BREADCRUMBS by Anne Ursu

CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER? by Martin Jenkins

DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos

FLESH & BLOOD SO CHEAP by Albert Marrin

THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRLYLAND by Catherynne Valente

THE HOUSE BABA BUILT by Ed Young

LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM by Mal Peet

ME . . . JANE by Patrick McDonnell

OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt

ORANI by Claire Nivola

PAPER COVERS ROCK by Jenny Hubbard

PRESS HERE by Herve Tullet

ROOTS AND BLUES by Arnold Adoff

SWIRL BY SWIRL by Joyce Sidman

WHY WE BROKE UP by Daniel Handler

two lists

AMERICA IS UNDER ATTACK by Don Brown

A BALL FOR DAISY by Chris Raschka

BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray

BONE DOG by Eric Rohmann

THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

EMMA DILEMMA by Kristine O’Connell George

GRANDPA GREEN by Lane Smith

HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by Sara Zarr

I.M. PEI by Jill Rubalcaba

I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen

INTO THE UNKNOWN by Stewart Ross

ISLAND’S END by Padma Venkatraman

KARMA by Cathy Ostlere

LITTLE WHITE RABBIT by Kevin Henkes

THE MANY FACES OF GEORGE WASHINGTON by Carla Killough McClafferty

MINE! by Shutta Crum

NAAMAH AND THE ARK AT NIGHT by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

A NATION’S HOPE by Matt de la Pena

NEVER FORGOTTEN by Patricia McKissack

OWLY AND WORMY: FRIENDS ALL A-FLUTTER by Andy Runton

SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS by Ellen Booraem

STARS by Mary Lyn Ray

STAY WITH ME by Paul Griffin

STRINGS ATTACHED by Judy Blundell

TITANIC SINKS! by Barry Denenberg

UNDERGROUND by Shane Evans

THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT by Allan Wolf

THE WATCHER by Jeanette Winter

WHITE CROW by Marcus Sedgwick

share save 171 16 Best Books Overlap
Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the County Schools Librarian at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at hunt_yellow@yahoo.com

Comments

  1. Jen B. says:

    Mmm, numbers and spreadsheets and such yummy goodness! I was a little surprised to see Chime not make the Bulletin list, but they seem to end up a little off-kilter from the other lists every year so not too surprised!

    I do still show Swirl by Swirl with 3 lists and I show the following additional titles for 2 lists:
    Divergent (PW and SLJ)
    I.M. Pei by Rubalcaba (Booklist and Kirkus)
    Karma (Booklist and Bulletin)
    Owly and Wormy: Friends All A-Flutter (Kirkus and Bulletin)
    Strings Attached (Kirkus and Bulletin)
    The Watcher (Booklist and Kirkus)

    I also find it interesting that Mo Willems only made 1 best of list despite 4 stars for Amanda and Her Alligator and 1 star for I Broke My Trunk. Do you think we’re seeing some Willems fatigue?

    And then looking at the shortlist here (again not that the criteria for lists and Newbery are even close to the same):
    5 lists:
    Heart and Soul
    4 lists:
    A Monster Calls; Wonderstruck
    3 lists:
    Amelia Lost; Okay for Now
    1 list:
    The Money We’ll Save
    No lists:
    I Broke My Trunk
    The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True
    The Trouble with May Amelia
    Penderwicks at Point Mouette

    Hmmm – all of those with no lists are sequels/series books. Could this be more of the unconscious bias towards said sequels/series?

  2. Mr. H says:

    Just curious, how many lists was MOON OVER MANIFEST on last year at this time? I’m trying to look through past posts on this blog. I found this post: http://blogs.slj.com/heavymedal/2011/01/01/best-books-revisited/

    But MOON OVER MANIFEST wasn’t listed anywhere. Was it not on multiple lists last year at this time? I find that interesting . . .

  3. Jen B. says:

    I show Moon Over Manifest on 1 list last year – the Kirkus list.

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Thanks, Jen! I’m going back to make corrections. I don’t use a spreadsheet, but simply re-tally my list every time a new one comes out. Next year, I’ll have to convert as I’m simply making too many mistakes.

  5. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Yes, MOON OVER MANIFEST made the Kirkus list. It is interesting, but not uncommon. I think their entire roster was validated by the review journals. The 2007 committee, on the other hand, completely bucked expectations: THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY (1 star/1 list), HATTIE BIG SKY (2 stars/0 lists), RULES (0 stars/0 lists), and PENNY FROM HEAVEN (0 stars/0 lists). As I said, there’s little to no correlation.

    A comparison of this best books list with our shortlist definitely highlights how we have to play favorites here in a way the Newbery committee does not. We have championed AMELIA LOST and OKAY FOR NOW here, but it just as easily could have been BREADCRUMBS and DEAD END IN NORVELT. All four got the same number of best of the year lists. You can make a case those latter two were just as deserving of our attention.

    Easy readers and transitional chapter books are not well loved by the review journals, and so it’s not surprising that I BROKE MY TRUNK! and SIR GAWAIN are not represented. Nothing else from those genres is either. Sequels are definitely a factor, too.

    In my next post, I’ll be looking at books like AMANDA & HER ALLIGATOR, books that earned numerous stars, but then didn’t make near as many lists.

  6. Jen B. says:

    No worries Jonathan! I had a co-worker the other day marveling at how I could bear to put together spreadsheets like this, but the truth is, I love it!

    In the previous thread about lists, I had looked at how many titles were unique per list and thought I’d update that with the Bulletin numbers – given the small size of their list, they are way out of proportion on uniqueness compared to the other journals (which again, doesn’t really surprise me exactly):
    The Bulletin named 31 titles (1 more than Horn Book, but 1 [The Odyssey ad. by Hinds] was a 2010 book so wouldn’t have been on any other of this year’s lists), but ended up with 52% unique.

    So, in order from smallest list to largest: Horn Book: 23% (7/30); Bulletin: 52%(16/31); PW: 37.5% (15/40); Booklist: 43% (23/53 – this dropped after adding the Bulletin); SLJ: 35% (23/66 – this also dropped); Kirkus: 63% (68/108 – very slight drop).

    So much for my theory that the smaller the list, the fewer unique titles! It’s sort of all over the place now.

  7. Jen B. says:

    The early reader/transitional chapter book bias I hadn’t even noticed this year, but I definitely see what you mean. We’ve done a display last year and this year where we highlight the best lists for a couple weeks before we start our Winter Reading Program and I have nothing from our early reader section on the pull list this year and only the Atinuke transitional chapter books (Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus and the No. 1 Car Spotter – which is probably borderline transitional).

    Last year treated that range a little better with list mentions for Ling and Ting, We Are in a Book, Bink & Gollie, and Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley. Still, that’s not much.

    I’m looking forward to the post about starred books that didn’t make as many lists!

  8. Jonathan Hunt says:

    While no chapter books made their list, Kirkus almost single-handedly brings attention to this field. Consider these starred reviews, all but two of which Kirkus was involved with–

    JUNONIA (Kirkus, Booklist, PW)
    TOYS COME HOME (Kirkus and Booklist)
    ALVIN HO (Kirkus and BCCB)
    SPUNKY TELLS ALL (Kirkus and SLJ)
    CLEMENTINE (Kirkus)
    SIR GAWAIN (Kirkus)
    NO. 1 CAR SPOTTER (BCCB)
    TROUBLE WITH CHICKENS (PW)

    NOTE: While Horn Book listed GOOD LUCK, ANNA HIBSCUS! they didn’t star it, nor did anyone else.

    I think these transitional chapter books can be really hard to evaluate fairly. We often talk about comparing apples to oranges, and I think people are willing to concede that a picture book text and an easy reader text are radically different from a middle grade novel. But these transitional chapter books feel more like comparing big juicy oranges to little scrawny oranges, but often that is the difference between what a 2nd grade reader is capable of and what a 7th grade reader is capable of. Another thing that complicates things is that the most popular transitional readers are now text/graphic hybrids like BABYMOUSE or WIMPY KID. Your more traditional chapter book with spot illustrations fights the bias of being viewed as neither good nor popular–and then add the series ennui on top of it all.

  9. Jen B. says:

    I actually show a May/June star for Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus from Horn Book.

    I would also add to your list Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream and Big Nate on a Roll which both got stars from Kirkus. Booklist also starred Cinderella Smith by Barden for Gr. 2-4.

    I do find it’s hard to know where to draw the line as to what’s a chapter book and what’s middle grade. PW starred The Trouble with Chickens for ages 8-12 and it’s gotten talked about a lot as a chapter book, but PW also starred Secrets at Sea for ages 8-12 and that seems to be discussed more as middle grade.

    Of course PW also starred The Cheshire Cheese Cat for ages 8-12 while Kirkus said 10-12 and SLJ says Grades 5-8, so go figure.

  10. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Oops. Did Horn Book star ANNA HIBISCUS? Follett Titlewave doesn’t have it listed as such, but I could/should have checked my personal copy. I know it’s not always easy to distinguish a transitional chapter book, but to my mind it has these design features: larger font, generous line spacing, fewer words per line, shorter chapters, smaller word count, and shorter page count. Then you look at how the content appeals to that audience: dialogue vs. description, pacing, humor, vocabulary, and child-centered presentation of subject matter, among other things. I guess if I went by this definition I wouldn’t consider JUNONIA one because, if I’m correct, it doesn’t have spot illustrations, but rather chapter heading art.

  11. Jen B. says:

    While completely not on the topic, I just had a patron interaction that brought to mind Jonathan’s complaints about bloated middle grade novels. Perhaps we could have more trim, appropriately lengthed stories if teachers would stop assigning “it must be over 200 pages” book reports. Grrr.

  12. Steffaney Smith says:

    Jonathan, love your method of tallying. Need to re-read and digest your conversations. Keep posting! I’m eating up the pre-award tidbits! I have to say as a youth librarian in a public library (small, rural), the best book I read in the past years was Sharon Draper’s “Out of My Mind,” and I missed it on the first-go around; plan to investigate how many lists it made. I consider it a very important book and an actual Newbery I can recommend to students, teachers and parents. I think it needs to be read in classrooms!
    So find us a Newbery that good this year!

  13. Dean Schneider says:

    Horn Book’s Fanfare in the current issue (Jan/Feb 2012) and Kirkus’ Best Children’s Books of 2011 are superb compilations of the best books of the year, attractive and handy guides to books that may well win various awards.

    It’s always good to reiterate that, as much fun as it is to tally the stars, the actual committee only discusses the books according to the six criteria. Reviews are not part of the discussions, though reading the reviews is part of an individual committee member’s preparation for the meetings.

  14. Sheila Kelly Welch says:

    Did JUNONIA make any lists? I know EDDIE’S WAR got starred and listed by Kirkus. Although I haven’t read everything (maybe nobody has?), I vote these two above OKAY FOR NOW for their: lovely use of language; no-holes plots; subtle yet clearly defined themes; strong, engaging character development; and clear, beautifully realized sense of setting. And both are examples of “Less is more.”

  15. Jen B. says:

    I didn’t track stars last year, just best lists, so I don’t know how many stars Out of My Mind got, but it was on only one best list, the Kirkus one.

    Junonia did not make any lists (but did get 3 stars) and Eddie’s War did only make the Kirkus list and star. I’m not sure how many of the journals actually reviewed Eddie’s War though.

  16. Jonathan Hunt says:

    OUT OF MY MIND got three starred reviews, but showed up as the winner on an astonishing number of mock Newberys with children participating.

    I’m going to squeeze in a quick post about I BROKE MY TRUNK! before the online voting starts, but we will definitely revisit the best books outliers shortly thereafter (like early next week).

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